Monday, January 16, 2012

Tired Paws

The name of this blog, which I've been writing for over four years, means "Amber on the go" in Spanish. I've rarely lived in one place for more than 6 months in the past decade. I spent years in Bellingham but was in and out traveling and studying in Latin America. When I did live in one place for a whole year, it wasn't even in America, but in South Korea.

In Mexico in 2005, my Mexican boyfriend Josafat immediately pegged me as a "pata de perro". This literally means "dog's paw", but translates more as backpacker, wanderer, or globetrotter. I also very specifically remember him saying, "Te enamoras con tu entorno" meaning You fall in love with your surroundings (or wherever you are in that moment)". How could I not? There are so many amazing places in the world to see, and a little bit of your heart can fall in love over and over. Yes, I've been a Pata de Perro for a long time and am incredibly grateful for the life that I've led. Last year alone, I went to 10 countries on 4 continents and took at total of 17 different flights.

I never thought I'd say this, but my little dog paws are tired. I don't want to be on the go anymore right now. I had a great experience living in South Korea for a year, but if anything it made me appreciate and LOVE the Northwest more than ever. After being in Korea, going to SE Asia, Australia, then to Europe in the summer, a little voice in my head was screaming at me to stay in Seattle. It wasn't even a conscious, logical decision, weighing pros and cons of career and romance and social networks or whatever makes some one move somewhere. It was just what my heart said and I had to listen.

I would run into friends or family and they'd ask, "So when's your next trip?" Nope, not going anywhere, I told them. I don't want to get on another airplane for a long time, and if I go anywhere I have about a 3-hour land-or-sea travel radius. That means my cardinal boundaries are essentially Vancouver BC, the Cascades, Portland, and the San Juans. That's as far as I have any interest in going. "Hah, we'll see how long that lasts!" they scoff. "You'll get bored in a few months and be off again!"

But I don't think I'll get bored at all. See, I used to be drawn to the dynamic feeling of always being on the move. There were so many places to go, cultures to get acquainted with, histories to study, languages to practice, new systems and concepts to wade through, interesting people to meet, foreign boys to kiss. I felt like I was always challenged and growing by traveling, pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

All those wonderful things definitely happen when you are on the go. But the same little voice was also telling me, Those things can happen when you stay put too. Being in one place definitely doesn't mean being stagnant. In fact, just the opposite; there are ways we can grow and develop ourselves in a stable home setting that are almost impossible while traveling. For instance, I have worked on farms and gardens from Bellingham to Italy, from Orcas Island to Korea to Mexico. I want to be somewhere for more than one year if only to see a garden in its second season. If only to eat the canned goods that I worked so hard to preserve. If only to make sure my little niece remembers my name.

And so, I'm digging my heels in and giving my paws a rest, at least for awhile. And I'm embracing the fact that life is as meaningful, beautiful, rich, and adventurous as we make it, whether we travel the world or live for 90 years in one small town. It's all a matter of finding what's new for you, in your own community, in your own way. And for me, the conventionality of a 9-5 job in the English-speaking city where I grew up feels brand new and exciting.

I can't sign off without an ending thought from Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird:

"All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way. Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before. Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions."


Karen N-N said...

Beautifully put Amber.

marla said...

I love you Amber! Thank-you forever reminding us of the magic of this amazing journey. Now go write a book. Xo

MVP said...

I completely know the feeling and even though it seems foreign to stay in one place for more than a year, it really is a good feeling. Since coming back, I haven't really wanted to leave..and it's been just over 2 years! Wonderful writing. Love you cuz! Lets hang out once the snow melts. -Mary

AmberAnda said...

Thanks for reading :) Mary, yes, I've been thinking about you and would really love to get together soon. I hope True's been having fun playing in the snow!